AFI Life Achievement Award
The AFI Life Achievement Award (not to be confused with the
Honorary Academy Award) was established by the Board of Directors of the American Film Instituteon February 26, 1973to honor a single individual for his or her lifetime contribution to enriching American culture through motion pictures and television.
The Trustees initially specified that the recipient must be one who fundamentally advanced the art of film and whose achievements had been acknowledged by the general public as well as by film scholars and critics and the individual's peers. The Trustees also specified that the work of the recipient must have withstood the test of time.
History of the award
John Fordwas the unanimous choice of the Board of Trustees for the first award as he "clearly stands preeminent in the history of motion pictures." President Richard M. Nixonattended the gala dinner at which Ford was presented the award on March 31, 1973.
The Board of Trustees later amend the "test of time" requirement to enable the AFI Life Achievement Award to be presented to individuals with shorter careers, such as
Tom Hanks, who at age 46, was the youngest recipient ever, and Steven Spielberg, who received the award at age 49.
All 35 Life Achievement Award ceremonies have been televised. Agreeing to appear at the televised ceremony apparently is part of the AFI's criteria for selecting the award.Fact|date=February 2007 The televised ceremony generates income for the AFI, which is no longer funded by the
US federal government. Due to the exigencies of television, the popularity of the award recipient in terms of potential ratings likely is a factor in selecting the Life Achievement Award honoree, which could explain why it never has been awarded to such major American directors as Robert Altmanand Francis Ford Coppola, both of whom were Film Society of Lincoln CenterGala Tribute honorees, or such distinguished actors as Robert Redford, Robert Duvalland Gene Hackman, the latter of whom was a recipient of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Cecil B. DeMilleAward for life achievement. Out of a total of 35 honorees only six have been women, Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, Barbara Stanwyck, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbra Streisand, and Meryl Streep.
Politics also seems to be a factor in the award, as that likely was behind the notable omissions of
Charles Chaplin, exiled from America during the Cold War for his left-wing sympathies, director Elia Kazan, controversial due to his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committeeduring the Cold War, and Charlton Heston, whose presidency of the National Rifle Associationmade him unpopular in many circles. Heston was the chair of the AFI Board of Trustees that created the award in 1973.
Other notable omissions were
Claudette Colbert, John Wayne, George Cukor, Audrey Hepburn, Bob Hope, Shirley MacLaine, Mike Nichols(all of which are recipients of a Lincoln Center Gala Tribute), Cary Grant, Paul Newmanand Marlon Brando. David Lean, Alfred Hitchcockand Sean Conneryare the only non-Americans to win the award. Warren Beattyreceived the most recent award in Los Angeles on 12 June 2008. [ [http://www.imdb.com/news/wenn/2007-10-05/#celeb3 Movie & TV News @ IMDb.com - WENN - 5 October 2007 ] ]
List of recipients
Robert De Niro
*1980: James Stewart
* [http://www.afi.com/tvevents/laa/laalist.aspx The AFI Life Achievement Awards official website]
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